02/14/10 — GPD unveils new Intellegence Unit

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GPD unveils new Intellegence Unit

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on February 14, 2010 1:50 AM

Discussion about an upstart operation at the Goldsboro Police Department held the attention of City Council members for nearly an hour of their annual retreat, as Chief Tim Bell and Capt. Al King spoke for the first time about the department's new Intelligence Unit.

The five-officer outfit, which has been functional since August, was created in response to the 9/11 attacks that unfolded nearly a decade ago.

"Basically, intelligence-led policing (has) emerged since 9/11. We all know, from media reports, that the information concerning the terrorist attacks ... actually was known. It just wasn't shared," King told the board. "(So this is) a policing policy that actually takes us from reactive law enforcement to proactive law enforcement."

The idea is rather simple, he said: Open up lines of communication between the PD and other organizations for the purpose of collecting raw data, that, when analyzed, can be shared between groups to assist in crime prevention.

"The difference between investigation and intelligence, investigation is basically crime driven. We are working on reports that have already been taken. ... It's a post-crime event," King said. "But with intelligence, we are looking at what may happen. What's down the road? Where are our trends at? Where do we put our people? How do we stop (crime)? And communication is the key."

But information sharing, analysis and dissemination is not the only way to reduce the city's crime rate, he said.

King also discussed ongoing efforts to bring Geographic Information System mapping software to the force.

"GIS mapping would give the officers in the field the capability of looking on their laptop and being able to tell exactly where crime is happening," he said. "It would give anybody with Internet service the ability ... to see ... what's happening in Goldsboro."

But Bell said bringing the software to his department is not a new request -- there is citywide initiative in the works that would bring GIS capabilities to many different departments, from Planning to Inspections.

"It's already in the making," he said. "This is something that is already coming about."

So instead of asking for funding to assist with an effort that is already underway, King painted a picture for the council of what the software would bring to the table -- a reality that years ago, might have seemed out of reach.

"The advantages are two-fold, both for the public and for the officers on the street. To the public, they would have 24/7 access to this site. They would have information about what's going on in their neighborhoods (as things are happening). ... Crime locations would be pinpointed for the public within the one block range," he said. "And to the police, they would ... be able to identify hot spots in the zones they are working that night. Where is crime happening?"

The program would also bolster the Intelligence Unit's ability to stop crime before it happens, he said.

The software would also allow officers to identify crime trends by location and would create field-based reporting capabilities that would give the officer the ability to complete reports on the street and send them directly to the system -- and their supervisor.

"That way, 10 to 15 minutes is all it's going to take," King said.

And that, he said, would create more time for the critical intelligence gathering that could, one day, stop crimes before the unfold.